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To Julie Crenshaw, Riviera's Still First, Even When Ben's Second

February 23, 1987|RANDY HARVEY | Times Staff Writer

Before Ben Crenshaw reached the 18th green Sunday at Riviera, his wife, Julie, had a feeling he was going to win the L.A. Open.

"He had that fight in his eyes," she said. "He was ready to make a birdie. I knew he was going to do it."

Crenshaw, tied for the lead with his playing partners, T.C. Chen and Danny Edwards after 17 holes, did indeed make a birdie, sinking his putt from 18 feet.

Julie, who had been sitting behind the green, jumped into the arms of her twin sister, Kimberly. They didn't stop dancing until it was time for Edwards to try for his birdie from the fringe of the green, 18 feet away from the hole.

"You've got to root for your guy and not hope that someone else misses," Julie said. "That's not the way golf is. But, of course, I'd rather him miss it."

Edwards missed.

That left Chen, who was standing over a 16-foot birdie putt.

"I know the tournament's not over until it's over," Julie said. "But I was so excited when Ben made that putt. I thought he had won it. I didn't think about anybody else making their putts. Chen had been missing all day."

He didn't miss this one, also sinking his birdie putt to tie Crenshaw at 275, nine under par.

On the first playoff hole, the par four, 449-yard No. 15, Crenshaw bogeyed, missing a four-foot putt.

Julie covered her eyes, but it was too late. The memory of that missed putt will be with her for a while.

"Ben played super the whole tournament," she said later, sitting in the wives' lounge at Riviera and waiting for her husband to finish his press conference.

"He didn't have any bogeys for 36 holes," she said. "Then he bogeyed the first hole in the playoff. That makes me think the playoff was working on his mind.

"When we got to 15, he said, 'Good luck, T.C.' Maybe he shouldn't have said that."

Julie laughed.

"Maybe Ben should have kept that fight in his eye," she said.

Julie had taken the long ride back to the clubhouse with Crenshaw after the playoff. She said he was disappointed but not depressed.

"I thought he wouldn't even talk," she said. "It would mean so much to him to win at Riviera."

One of the other professional golfers, Jerry Pate, introduced Ben and Julie Forrest four years ago at the L.A. Open. Julie, who was 18 at the time, is from Temple City.

They were married 21 months later and are expecting their first child in October.

Julie, who lives with Ben in Austin, Tex., took advantage of this trip home to shop for maternity clothes with her mother.

When they took their vows that said for better or worse, the Crenshaws had already been through the worse.

A couple of months after they met, he won the Masters for his first victory in a major tournament. But then his game mysteriously fell apart. In 1985, he finished 149th on the earnings list with only $25,814.

Some people said he was distracted because of his failed first marriage. Some people blamed Julie, claiming that she distracted him.

Concerned about Crenshaw's weight loss, his father and Julie finally convinced him to see a doctor in November of 1985. Tests revealed that Crenshaw suffered from a hyperactive thyroid.

"Everyone had reasons for him not playing well," Julie said. "I'm glad the doctor found something was wrong with him so that everyone could stop blaming it on reasons that weren't valid."

Since regaining the 25 pounds he lost, he also has regained his game. He won two tournaments last year and finished eighth in earnings with $388,169. In six tournaments this year, he has finished in the top 10 three times.

"We've got a lot of good things to look forward to, especially with the baby on the way," Julie said.

As a golf historian, Crenshaw, 35, has a victory in the L.A. Open high on his priority list. Ben Hogan, Jimmy Demaret, Byron Nelson, Sam Snead and Arnold Palmer have won here.

"Ben would never miss a chance to play at Riviera," Julie said. "I don't know why so many good players don't come here. Some of them would rather play last week on a municipal course (Torrey Pines in San Diego) and miss Riviera, which is one of the world's great golf courses."

When asked the reason, she said she thinks it's because this week's tournament, the Doral Ryder Open in Miami, has a $1 million purse, $180,000 of which goes to the winner. The L.A. Open purse is $600,000, $108,000 going to the winner.

"Some of these players have money in their eyes," she said. "They think they have a better chance at Doral if they go to Florida a week early and get adjusted to the time change.

"When we were talking to Lanny Wadkins the other day, he said the players who don't come here are crazy. Ben agreed. What gets you more ready than playing a great course like Riviera?

"Ben has such respect for this course and all the great players who have won here. He'll never miss this tournament as long as it's at Riviera."

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